MADISON, N.J. - Going on the road against a 5-1 Madison team, which was in the midst of a four game winning streak, didn't look like a great match up for the Livingston girls basketball team, entering Thursday night's match with a 2-2 mark.
Perhaps they circled it as a big game or perhaps records can be deceiving, because the Lancer girls controlled the game from beginning to end against the Madison Dodgers, surviving a late run to come away with an impressive 47-38 win, getting over .500 for the first time this season.
Both Katie Horiuchi and Nicole LaRusso led the way for the Lady Lancers, combining for 30 points, with Horiuchi in front, scoring 17 points. Horiuchi also swiped four steals, and did an excellent job of controlling the game's tempo late in the fourth, when Madison was trying to make things close. Her value on the floor Thursday night cannot be summed up on the stat sheet.
"(Horiuchi) impresses me every day," Livingston head coach Patty Kaes saidi. "I'm not surprised by the way she played, she's the heart and soul of the team. She's the leader, she dictates the tempo and the type of game that we're going to play. She's very selfless, she dishes the ball well and finds her open shot. Her overall game has really, really kicked in."
Livingston hit just over 40 percent of its shots from the floor, and made over 46 percent of its shots during the second half. Madison made just under 33 percent of its shots in the contest, but also made just three-of-eight from the free throw line. Couple that with the Lady Lancers sinking 12-of-20 from the stripe, as well as hitting five three-pointers compared to one from the Lady Dodgers, and it's not hard to see how Livingston won this game. Control the tempo and the ball and take good shots.
"We prepared very well, our team has been becoming a greater team all throughout the season, we found their weaknesses and just capitalized on them and ran the floor well," Horiuchi said. "I think we broke down their defense pretty well and we played man against them because they were breaking down our zone very well."
Following a Livingston timeout with 5:59 left to play, Madison's Gaby Fuchs sank a pair of free throws to bring the Lady Dodgers within five of tying Livingston. On the ensuing possession, Horiuchi and the rest of the Lady Lancer offense proceeded to play keep away, holding onto possession for nearly a minute and a half, before drawing a foul. Sarosha Parsons stepped up and knocked down the free throws, putting Livingston back up by seven.
Madison got back within five points on three other occasions in the closing minutes, but the Lady Lancers kept having answers on the offensive end, and were able to fend off Madison.
"I think we felt it today," Horiuchi said. "I think today, we saw it as a big game, we saw it as a team we should beat, and we came out, saw our open shots, and hit them."
"Down the stretch, it was our composure and their experience, they were able to make smart plays down at the end. With clock management, they did a really good job," said Livingston head coach Patty Kaes, of her team.
The Lady Lancers ceased nearly immediate control of the game, following a steal by Horiuchi and a baseline three-pointer from LaRusso to get things started. Madison had a brief early lead, after Fuchs drove to the basket and laid one in, giving the home team a 4-3 lead. LaRusso's second three-pointer of the game, also from the baseline, gave the Lady Lancers the lead for good.
Livingston held a one point lead heading into the second quarter, and the opened the second frame with an 8-2 run, taking a 25-18 lead with under three left before the half. Tori Ellis banked in a shot right after to get within five, which is where the lead stayed at the break.
In the third quarter, it appeared that Livingston took the intensity up a notch, especially on the defensive side, holding Madison to just five points and two field goals. Livingston opened the half on a 7-1 run, holding Madison without a field goal for nearly five minutes.
"I think as a team, we saw the third quarter as a new first quarter and, in order to keep our lead, we had to keep going with the pressure," Horiuchi said. "We all played man, we communicated, which added another defender on the floor."
Fuchs led the Lady Dodgers with 12 points and 12 rebounds, while Ellis chipped in 11 points and Kristina Qualben scored nine. Madison, which fell to 5-2 after the loss, is in action again on Saturday afternoon, at home against East Brunswick. The Lady Lancers have their first winning streak of the season, now at two straight, and face Verona at home on Saturday morning.